Networking: How To Make Your Personality Work For You

If you've heard it once, you've heard it a million times: "Landing a job isn't about what you know, it's about who you know."

Well, according to Jobvite's 2014 Social Recruiting Survey, the age old adage still rings true. In its survey of 1,855 recruiting and HR professionals across a wide range of industries, 60 percent indicated they sourced the best candidates from referrals.

The problem with finding a job being about who you know is, depending on a person's personality, networking -- getting to know "who you know" -- may be more of a challenge for some than others. And that means for certain people, landing a job may be more difficult.

The solution?

Taking the time to understand your personality and how it may positively or negatively affect your networking prowess.

The Big Five

In order to do this, it's important to understand the "Big Five" personality dimensions: conscientiousness, agreeableness, extraversion, openness, and neuroticism. These five broad personality dimensions are measured on a spectrum, to help you gain insight into how you make decisions, interact with others, manage stress, view relationships, and more.

Here's a little more about three of the Big Five personality dimensions that can impact your ability to network the most, and how to make them work for you -- no matter what end of the spectrum you're on:

1. Conscientiousness

Conscientiousness measures a person's tendency to be organized, show self-discipline, and be prepared. Highly conscientious people excel at impulse control and, as a result, typically act on a plan rather than flying by the seat of their pants.

Highly conscientious individuals should use their affinity for organization to create a networking event action plan. Do your research and find out who is going to the event. Make a shortlist of the people you care the most about meeting, and approach those individuals first.

Be aware of timing, and ensure you leave yourself time to network with walk-ins and other individuals you did not know were attending, so you don't miss out on making connections that matter. In other words, don't be afraid to be a little spontaneous.

Low conscientiousness levels can make networking a little more difficult, but not impossible. The key for individuals with low levels of conscientiousness is being aware of what you're saying, who you're talking to, and how much time you're spending with each person.

If creating a plan feels too far out of your comfort zone, do your best to make sure your knack for spontaneity doesn't keep you pinned down in one place for too long. Be sure to move around the room, and focus on what you're sharing. Remember, networking is about making a connection, so work hard to be conscious you're not over-sharing or discussing inappropriate topics.

2. Extraversion

Extraversion -- and its opposite, introversion -- are measures of an individual's energy style. Extraverted individuals tend to be more outgoing and comfortable in highly stimulating environments, while their counterparts prefer quiet, low-stimulus environments.

Extraverts have a natural advantage over Introverts when it comes to networking at large events -- they like busy environments. They should use this advantage to make genuine connections with as many people as possible. Be sure to collect business cards or other information to help connect names with faces, for future reference.

Unfortunately, Extroverts' ability to speak comfortably with others often impacts their ability to listen. And in networking, listening can be key. As you're making connections, be aware of how much you're talking. Don't dominate the conversation. Truly successful networkers are the ones who talk and listen, focusing on how they can make a difference for their new connections.

Introverts, on the other hand, excel at the listening side of networking. They tend to make fewer connections, but those they do make are typically deeper. As an Introvert, seize the opportunities you get and try to determine exactly what the people you are talking to need, then think about how you can help. Show that you're interested in what others have to say, and good things will happen.

Watch out for your energy levels during large networking events. Take the time before an event to think about how long you can handle high levels of interaction, and make a schedule that includes breaks for yourself to recharge. Sure, you may be missing 10 or 15 minutes of the event here and there, but you'll be more energized and dynamic while you're building your network.

3. Agreeableness

Agreeableness is a measure of a person's tendency toward being friendly and compassionate vs. suspicious and detached. In a way, it's a measure of a person's temperament toward others and, as a result, how likable they are.

Agreeable people tend to be naturally more likable. Take advantage of this. Speak freely with the people you're interested in making connections with, and show them that you genuinely care about building a long-term relationship.

One thing for agreeable people to watch out for is being too agreeable. Agreeable people tend to neglect being task-focused during networking, which can hurt their chances of developing a two-way relationship. Remember, making friends is one thing, but if you're so busy doing that you forget to tell others you're looking for a job, you're not making the most out of your opportunities.

Less agreeable people tend to be stand-offish and, at times, altogether unfriendly. Because they are more likely to focus on their own interests, making genuine connections can be difficult. The key is to soften your approach.

Be aware of whether or not you sound opportunistic and brusque, and make an effort to change your tone if you do. Remember that networking is about finding ways to connect with others, not finding ways to challenge them and their point of view.

Have you noticed how your personality affects your networking?

Molly Owens is the CEO of Truity (www.truity.com), developer of the TypeFinder® personality type assessment and other scientifically validated, user-friendly personality assessments that connect people with powerful insights about their strengths, talents, and traits. Find Molly and Truity on Twitter and Facebook.